Mikael Granlund is one of my favorite players in the NHL. I might have met him once -- I may also claim to be his friend (I'm not). He is a young, dynamic skillful player who has an unbelievably high ceiling -- like name in the Xcel Energy Center rafters high. I love to watch this kid play.
To start this playoff series, Granlund was coming back from an "upper body injury" suffered at the end of the regular season -- he finally asserted himself in a big way in this series. After not making much noise in Game 1, Granlund followed up his good Game 2 performance with an excellent Game 3 performance. Wild fans will remember this game with reverence, Granlund besting the mighty performance of Semyon Varlamov, sparking life into the Wild in the 2014 playoff season.
Sure he had the most memorable play of the game in overtime, but he had a rocket on his back the entire
evening. The goal Granlund scored was only one of his many skilled-hustle-plays of the evening -- I'm going to coin that, skilled-hustle-plays -- that's Granlund.
He moved the puck well, avoided a lot of hits while also not shying away from getting physical with the Avalanche, he hustled down every puck, and most of all, he attacked the net and challenged Varlamov -- a lot, Granlund had seven shots, most in the game (Parise had 7 as well).
Granlund might be just the right piece to really make this Wild team special, now, and in the future. One of the reasons he is my
favorite player is because I can see a potential great in Granlund. He showed it tonight. He made this "beastmode" play, putting the Wild on his back and winning them a game, a game the Wild completely dominated (and deserved to win).
Bring on Game 4.
And you didn't seriously think I would publish this without referring to Darcy Kuemper -- what a stud in the nets Kuemper was all night (and the defense was lights out in Game 3 as well). He had a handle on all the pucks headed his direction and made good plays on them once they made it to the net.
This makes me wonder if the Wild might be in a different situation had Kuemper starter Game 2. But I do understand the impossible decision of pulling Bryz the way he was rolling through the end of the season. Hindsight is 20/20.
Image via: Minnesota Wild